Fandom: Star Trek
Disclaimer: Nope, not mine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made.
Summary: Chekov and Sulu's friendship in five (er, and a half) scenes, over five years. Because sometimes these things take time.
Author's Note: I'm posting this now so I can get it off my list of works-in-progress before I am consumed by university. Constructive criticism is welcome.
Someone at the Academy had decided that after the change of command ceremony, there should be a party for the Enterprise’s new captain and his crew. It was supposed to be a celebration of the crew’s achievements, but it had the air of a funeral. Sulu couldn’t help but remember that the crowd of four hundred newly-made officers, churning around one of the Academy’s larger banquet halls, was all that remained of the graduating class of 2258.
Sulu sipped at the champagne someone had given him and floated between clusters of people, catching a few minutes of conversation here and there before he moved on to a new group. He was anxious to get off this planet again, to be traveling so fast he couldn’t be seen. When he looked down and saw his flute was empty, he followed a trajectory— God, he missed flying, and it hadn’t even been two days—towards the bar and nearly tripped over Chekov, who had cut across his path.
“Mr Sulu! I am so sorry.”
“Chekov,” Sulu said with a sigh. Finally, someone who wouldn’t ask to hear the story about the fucking external inertial dampers. “I’m going to get a drink. You want one?”
“They only serve me soda pop,” Chekov muttered.
“After you helped save the world? Look, stay here, and I’ll order something for you.” He could get in trouble for that, but he doubted the consequences would be disastrous, considering who they were.
He got a shot of vodka (of course) and another glass of champagne at the bar, then returned to where Chekov was waiting.
“Thank you, Mr Sulu.” Chekov grinned. “Budem zdorovy,” he said, clinking their glasses together before he knocked the vodka back.
“Least I could do,” Sulu said. “You saved my life. And the captain’s."
Chekov nodded, and looked down at his empty shot glass. “I am just glad my calculations were correct.”
An awkward silence fell as Sulu thought of Amanda Grayson, of the Vulcans who had not been evacuated in time, and of all the old classmates he kept thinking he was seeing in the crowd before he realized that they had not been assigned to the Enterprise. He looked at Chekov and didn’t like the idea of him brooding.
So Sulu changed the subject.
“Nice suit,” he said.
Chekov seemed to find this an acceptable topic. He tugged at the lapels of his grey single-breasted jacket. “My mother sent it for me.” He said it proudly, beaming. For a moment, all Sulu could see were his wide blue eyes and his wispy beginnings of a beard. “She and my father are coming to see me tomorrow night, all the way from St Petersburg.” He paused and bit the tip of his tongue. “Well, I guess I came farther, technically. But. Well. Would you like to meet them? We are going out for dinner.”
Sulu winced apologetically. “Sorry, but I can’t, actually,” he said “My dad’s coming down, and it’s not that often that my parents decide to be in the same room at the same time.”
“I understand,” Chekov said, even though he probably didn’t; not from personal experience, anyway. He cleared his throat glanced down at his glass again. “Perhaps you could get me another one?"
Sulu put on an easy grin, happy to be of service. “Anything for my saviour.”
The various members of the landing party had beamed down in different locations in groups of two or three. No one group was very far from the rest of the party—this was an uncharted planet and their communicators weren’t foolproof— but each group had at least a one-kilometre radius to cover.
Chekov beamed down with Sulu. He didn’t say much and didn’t look up from his tricorder as they materialized on an incline covered in yellow grass, near a grove of fruit-bearing trees. The air was thick with humidity and the sky was overcast. Sulu stepped towards one of the trees, sweat already breaking out on his forehead
“Have you got a reading on the soil composition?” Sulu asked over his shoulder, eyeing something that strongly resembled an apple hanging from a low branch.
"High nitrogen concentration. Fairly low in phosphates.” Chekov turned a dial on the tricorder. He knelt and scooped some soil into a vial, which he pocketed.
“Sulu?” he said.
“I feel I must thank you for suggesting to the captain that I assist you on this mission,” he said.
Sulu smiled, still examining the fruit. “No problem, Chekov.”
With his PADD, Chekov snapped a picture of the tree. “But I do not think I am qualified. I have no background in biology.”
Sulu scoffed. “You’ve read all my botany journals. That’s more than some of our biologists have done.”
“I also read the journals Mr Scott recommends for me, but he does not call me down to the engine room when there is a malfunction.”
“Chekov, you’re a genius. If anything, you should be insulted I recommended you for something as menial as survey work. I just figured you could use a change of pace.”
“You think I should not work so hard?”
Sulu shook his head. “If you didn’t work so hard, you’d only be in your second year at the Academy and I’d be stuck on this planet with someone much less interesting than yourself.”
Chekov, whose cheeks were already flushed pink from the heat, turned a few shades darker and looked back down at his samples.
(It had occurred to Sulu before that maybe Chekov, who was young and shy and made his admiration for Sulu no secret, might have had a little crush on him. This thought ran through his mind now, and he wondered if what he’d just said might be misconstrued as flirting. He always had been a bit of a flirt.)
Sulu took a few paces, then knelt down and cut a leaf from a low shrub. He tucked the leaf in a sample bag and sealed it off before he signalled for Chekov to take a picture of it.
“I am just worried I am only here because I am your friend,” Chekov continued, mumbling.
Sulu smiled and punched him lightly on the shoulder. “Hey. Kirk signed off on it, didn’t he? Don’t worry; you’d be perfectly qualified to be down here even if I hated your guts.”
“Yes. But I don’t.”
“I am glad,” Chekov said, smiling briefly before he stepped back and photographed the shrub.
“Just think,” Sulu said a few minutes later, as he carefully pulled up blades of yellow grass, roots and all, “someone could be starting a family here in a few decades.”
“Or maybe everything that grows here is poisonous to humanoids.” Chekov took the clippings and began to flip through encyclopedia entries on his PADD.
“Then they can introduce foreign crops. The climate’s similar to that of Gamma Hydra II, and the soil composition seems right for some common breeds of corn and wheat.”
“Maybe.” Chekov tapped the PADD’s screen. “It looks like that one, doesn’t it?”
“Maybe. We don’t really have enough time to do a full analysis. We’ll have to leave it to the molecular biologists.”
Chekov bit his tongue. “Do you ever think you might retire to a colony planet?” he asked.
Sulu shrugged. “I figure I’ll have seen enough of space when I’m that age. I’ll just want to go home.”
“Do you miss Earth now?”
“Huh.” Sulu thought about it for a while, and then said, “I don’t miss San Francisco yet. I mean, it’s home, but I couldn’t wait to get out of there and see the rest of the galaxy—”
“I did not say ‘San Francisco.’” Chekov rolled his eyes. “I said ‘Earth’. Sulu, you really must do some traveling when this mission is over.”
Sulu laughed. “I’ll have traveled all over the galaxy!”
“I mean you cannot judge a whole planet by one city. I will have to take you to Russia, at least. Maybe that will give you some balance.”
“Right, okay.” Sulu grinned.
“No, really. I will take you to all the best gardens and historical sites. And you can meet my relatives, too. I have family all over.”
Sulu’s grin fizzled down to a surprised smile. “It sounds like a plan,” he said seriously. It did, the way Chekov said it. He imagined Chekov dragging him by the hand through the streets of St Petersburg. Despite the fact that he had no idea what the streets of St Petersburg looked like, he could picture it as vividly as a favourite memory.
Chekov was about to say something else when he was interrupted by a distant noise that sounded like a cross between a scream and a squawk. The smiles melted off their faces and Chekov immediately slung his tricorder across his back.
“Phasers out,” Sulu said, his voice dropping to a whisper. “On stun.” He patted the communicator at his hip and unhooked it from his belt, ready to send a transmission to Uhura.
“Yes, sir.” Chekov nodded once and they took off towards the source of the sound.
Sulu knew that one observer’s idea of the passage of time meant very little when you were traveling at warp speeds between hundreds of different planets, scattered throughout various solar systems. But by Starfleet’s standard time, they’d gone eight months without shore leave and he could feel every second of it. He didn’t tire easily—he’d got himself a full pilot’s license and a doctorate in astrophysics with a minor in botany by the age of twenty-one, for goodness sake—but he’d still sighed audibly with relief when Kirk announced that they were scheduled for two weeks on Risa.
Even after a long night of dancing and drinking in one of Risa’s top-rated bars, Sulu woke up early, as always. The chronometer read 7:13. He did some brief calculations and converted this to Starfleet’s standard time. On the Enterprise, he would have had ample time to shower and eat breakfast before the Alpha shift, but here there was no work to be done and the shops weren’t open yet. There was nothing to do but watch Risa’s famous double sunrise.
The hotel Kirk had arranged was a block back from the shore, so Sulu’s view was mostly taken up by other resorts. But he could make out slivers of beach through the gaps between the beige stone buildings. He pulled on a pair of jeans, his boots, and a lightweight shirt he’d bought the day before and trotted down towards the water until he hit sand.
As he’d suspected, Chekov didn’t miss his daily run. It was only a quarter of an hour before Sulu spotted him jogging along the shore, easily recognizable in his gold Starfleet shirt. He saw Sulu a few seconds later, waved, and sprinted to where Sulu was sitting.
“You know you don’t have to wear your uniform when we’re on leave,” Sulu said as Chekov flopped down onto the sand beside him.
“I know,” Chekov huffed, flushed and out of breath. “But it is— very comfortable.” He lay down on his back and put his hands behind his head.
One sun had risen completely over the horizon, while the other only set a pinkish glow around the outline of a distant island.
“It’s beautiful,” Sulu murmured.
“Very nice,” Chekov agreed. He yawned deeply and stretched like a cat.
“Late night?” Sulu asked.
Chekov sat up immediately and grinned. “Yes.”
Sulu realized suddenly why Chekov was still wearing his uniform. “So you were with—?”
“Lieutenant Stevin. He is a transporter technician. Do you know him?”
“Yeah, I think I’ve seen him around,” Sulu said. He always felt like a bit of a prude when they talked about Chekov’s hook-ups. Besides his brief relationship with Dr Ling almost a year ago, Sulu had been pretty much celibate since the Academy. Sometimes he worried that he was living his sex life vicariously through Chekov, who didn’t share intimate details but gave enough information that Sulu imagined them whether he wanted to or not.
Chekov certainly wasn’t a kid now. He was a few inches taller than Sulu now, and although he was still one of the youngest officers in Starfleet, no one ruffled his hair or pinched his cheeks anymore. Sulu had gotten used to the fact that Chekov— sweet, naïve Chekov— was receiving a very different sort of attention.
“Do you think you’ll see him again?”
Chekov’s mouth curled slowly into a dreamy smile. “I hope so.”
"Yeah? Anything serious?”
He shrugged. “He has some very interesting ideas about reducing energy consumption during transportation. I would like to hear more about that sometime. And he is good-looking. And very nice. I don’t know if I have time for something serious, but…” He shrugged again, but Sulu could see the vulnerable glimmer of hope in his eyes. Sulu felt his chest tighten.
“If he breaks your heart,” he said, keeping his voice light, “just remember that I’ve been fencing since I was seven. I could always challenge him to a duel.”
Chekov laughed out loud, the wistfulness in his eyes disappearing like a puff of steam. He composed himself, took a breath, and fluttered his eyelashes. “You would fight for my honour?”
“I’m old-fashioned like that.”
“Oh, Hikaru!” Chekov lunged at Sulu, probably trying to leap into his lap but only succeeding in knocking him down. Chekov landed with his face in the sand. He spat out a mouthful of it and rolled off Sulu and onto his back, humming in contentment.
“You’re insane, Pavel.”
“No, just enthusiastic.”
Risa’s second sun had risen, and their double shadows stretched long and thin behind them.
“I must stink from running,” Chekov said suddenly. “We are still sight-seeing today, yes?”
Sulu glanced over at him and smiled. “Yeah, if you’re up for it.”
“Of course. I will just go back to my room and take a shower first. Give me twenty minutes.”
Chekov set off, kicking up sand as he went, and Sulu sat and waited.
The landing party had returned to the ship for thirty-two hours before any of them left the sick bay. Kirk was the first back on the bridge, of course, with a fading bruise along his jaw but otherwise looking perfectly healthy.
“Good to have you back, Captain,” Sulu said as he reported for duty.
Kirk nodded at him and smiled. “Thank you, Mr Sulu.”
Riley was sitting in the navigator’s chair. Sulu wanted to ask how Chekov was doing, but it worried him that he hadn’t been told already.
It was another fourteen hours before he heard from Chekov. He was off duty, thankfully, fencing with one of the junior officers when he heard his PADD beep. The message was short and simple: Dr McCoy says you can visit me now.
“Sorry, Andrews,” Sulu said as he rushed toward the locker room, “I’ve got to go.”
Nurse Chapel was on duty and told him that Chekov had fractured his tibia, broken two ribs, and punctured a lung, but that he’d received treatment and would be ready to return to work after a little more rest. Sulu only nodded and let her lead him to Chekov’s bed.
Chekov was wide awake, scrolling through something on his PADD, which he tossed to the side the moment he saw Sulu. His hair was uncombed, wild on one side and squished flat against his skull on the other; and he was shirtless, a white bandage bisecting his torso.
“Hey,” Sulu says. Without thinking, he pressed his fingertips against warm skin near the edge of a large bruise on Chekov’s side. Then he pulled his hand back.
“I have been asking Dr McCoy since we got back when I can see you, but he told me I had to wait.”
“Looks like you needed some time to heal.”
“I was going crazy, surrounded by nurses and doctors. The captain was discharged ages ago, but he probably would have snuck out anyway. A few others left this morning. I said to Dr McCoy, ‘If they are now well enough to get back to work, then I should be well enough to have visitors,’ and at first he just gave me a crossword to keep me busy. But I hate crosswords, so I just kept asking every few minutes until he finally broke down and told me you could come down for an hour.”
“I’m surprised he didn’t sedate you.”
“He did, at first, because he said that all my talking would ruin what he did to fix my lung. But now I am better, and he has me on three other drugs to speed the healing. I think he’s worried about mixing them.”
“I was worried about you.”
Chekov smiled sweetly. He took Sulu’s hand and placed it on the bandage. “See?” he said. “I am fine.” He bit his lip. “I was worried, too, though. For a minute, I thought I might die. I thought, ‘I will never see my mother again. I will never see Earth. And I will never see Hikaru.’”
Sulu shifted his weight from foot to foot, a bit embarrassed by his inclusion, but touched, too. “Pavel,” he began, before Chekov shook his head.
Chekov took a deep breath, but he winced, and Sulu immediately looked down at Chekov’s chest.
“You don’t have to talk if you can’t.”
“No, I’m fine. I only forgot I can’t do that yet. ” Chekov kept Sulu’s hand flat against his chest. “Just don’t make me laugh or cry or Dr McCoy will keep me here forever.”
Sulu nodded solemnly.
“Anyway,” Chekov says. He took another breath, this time shallower, and he let it out through his nose. He had dark circles under his eyes, but Sulu could tell he was wide awake and restless. He didn’t blame McCoy for not wanting to add another drug to whatever cocktail Chekov was currently on.
“I love you, Hikaru.”
Sulu let his breath out in a rush like a laugh. “Well, I love you, too, Pavel.”
Chekov shook his head. “No, not like that. Not like you would say to your mother. I am in love with you. You understand this?”
Sulu’s fingers twitched against Chekov’s bandage and he frowned. “Are you sure this isn’t a side effect of one of those drugs McCoy’s got you on?”
Chekov shook his head. “No. I knew when we were planetside, before I was injured.” He squeezed Sulu’s hand. “I didn’t want to die and not have told you.”
“Well, look, don’t think you can die now.”
“Of course I can’t, Hikaru.” One side of Chekov’s mouth quirked up higher than the other. “You haven’t told me you love me back yet.”
“Can we stop talking about your death?”
But Chekov said nothing and just waited.
Sulu exhaled sharply through his nose. “Okay. Look, Chekov, I’m extremely flattered, but I don’t think it’s a good idea for us to sleep together.” He kept his tone even, but the shock of Chekov’s confession was just starting to hit him. He’d wondered before, every now and then, about some strange distant possibility, but— “You’re my friend, and we share a console, and sex would just complicate things—”
“Or it could improve things,” Chekov insisted. “And it wouldn’t just be sex.”
Sulu gently pulled his hand out of Chekov’s grip. “Everything ends. And usually not happily. You should know that by now.”
That last sentence sounded harsher than he’d intended, but he didn’t know how to take it back when it was true.
They stared at each other for a while longer, Sulu’s stomach twisting when he noticed the corners of Chekov’s mouth trembling. Finally, Chekov licked his lips and settled on an expression of distaste.
“Forget I said anything. It must be the medicine.”
Sulu reached out for Chekov’s hand again, but he stopped before he got there, his hand hovering in the air between them. “Pavel,” he said in a hushed voice. “I think you’re the best friend I’ve ever had, and I just don’t want to ruin that.”
Chekov turned his head away from him. “I said to forget it.”
Sulu knew better than to aggravate a patient in McCoy’s sickbay, so he returned to his quarters.
“We’ve received our orders from Starfleet regarding our next destination,” Kirk announced. He directed his attention to the helm. “Heading 463, mark 7, Lieutenant.”
Riley frowned, plotted the course, and then began to smile. “Aye, sir,” he said. “Course locked in.”
Sulu glanced at the navigation display and felt his stomach twist with excitement and a touch of anxiety.
“I feel like taking the scenic route. What do you think about warp five, Mr Sulu?”
Sulu tapped a few buttons on the console. “That’ll give us four days and seven hours, Captain.” He glanced over his shoulder at Kirk.
“Perfect. No need to overload the warp core just now. Warp factor five, Mr Sulu, if you please.”
Sulu nodded. “Aye, sir. Warp factor five.” He flipped the appropriate switches and pulled the ship out of its orbit around Kaphal XI.
“So what are you going to do when you get home, Sulu?” Riley asked.
Sulu looked over at him across the conn. “I think I’m going to do some traveling,” he said, and smiled.
Chekov was waiting at the door to his quarters, holding a tray with two mugs and a plate of macaroons, which Chekov loved even though he knew that the replicator infused them with a blend of vitamins and minerals. Sulu found them dry and a little chalky.
“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” Sulu asked him, reaching over Chekov’s shoulder to punch in the access code to his quarters.
“I am too excited.” Chekov was breathless, as if he’d been running. Sulu wouldn’t have been surprised if Chekov had done a few laps before he got here.
“You still need to be alert, even if we’re going home.”
Chekov rolled his eyes and smiled as Sulu took the tray from him and placed it on the desk. “I will get a nap in before Gamma starts,” Chekov promised.
They sat down and Chekov indicated which mug held Sulu’s tea, prepared with two sugars.
“I wish I’d been there to lay in the course,” Chekov murmured, closing his eyes. “It must have been amazing.”
It hadn’t quite been the religious experience Chekov was making it out to be— everyone had known the mission was coming to an end— but somehow, it was still a bit of a shock.
“It was pretty exciting,” Sulu told him. “Riley spent most of the shift trying to start a sing-along.”
Chekov opened his eyes and laughed. “I should have been there.” He shook his head, as if he couldn’t believe he’d been assigned to another shift.
“You’ll be on the bridge for the landing, if we don’t receive any distress calls,” Sulu pointed out. He took a sip of his tea. He’d always had it with milk as a teenager, but Chekov had protested strongly when he’d heard that, saying it ruined the flavour of the tea. It had taken a while to get used to, but now he could see what Chekov meant.
“I know when we will arrive, I already did the math,” Chekov said. He blew on his tea, black with three sugars, to cool it. “I sent a message to my aunt when I found out, so that she can get the guest bedroom ready.”
Sulu grinned. “I can’t wait to meet her,” he said. They’d been planning this trip— which would begin with a week at Chekov’s Aunt Olga’s apartment in Yekaterinberg— for months now.
Chekov ate one of the macaroons in two bites. “You will like her. And she will like you.”
“I have already told her that you are polite and like gardening. Based on that information, she is ready to adopt you.”
Sulu gave a short laugh. “Good to know my reputation precedes me.”
“It is a good reputation,” Chekov insisted.
Sulu nodded slowly. “Definitely not a bad one.” He watched Chekov take a gulp of tea.
“Hikaru,” Chekov began cautiously, drumming the fingers of one hand against his thigh. “After our leave is over, where do you think you’ll take your next assignment?”
Sulu shrugged. “I don’t know. Wherever I’m needed, I guess that’s where I’ll go. I’ve heard that Kirk wants to do another five years of exploration, and I guess he’d get to pick his crew, then, but nothing’s official. Have you heard anything?”
“I have had an offer from a research vessel,” Chekov admitted. “Staying close to Earth, doing experiments in zero gravity. It would be very interesting, I think.”
“Take it, then,” Sulu told him. “It sounds safer than what we’ve been doing.”
Chekov bit his lip. “But I would miss navigating.”
“You’ve been the navigator on the Federation’s flagship,” Sulu said, tilting his head to the side. “I guarantee you’ll get offers to navigate for the rest of your life.”
Chekov nodded and took another macaroon. When he’d swallowed it, he looked shyly at Sulu and said, “I think I would miss working with you, too.” It made something expand in Sulu’s chest like hot air, and he leaned over the desk towards Chekov.
During their first few shifts together, unused to sharing a console, Chekov had accidentally jabbed his elbow into Sulu’s ribs. They’d kicked each other and banged their knees on the underside of the conn, too, during the first few weeks. But that hadn’t lasted too long, and now they were able to silently reaching across the conn and correct each other’s calculations on the rare occasions when one of them made an error. They moved together easily, fluidly, in sync.
So Chekov didn’t pull away when Sulu reached out and put his hand on the side of Chekov’s face. He’d anticipated it and braced himself. But he was obviously surprised, breathing heavily through his nose as he said, “I thought we couldn’t—”
“I know,” Sulu murmured as he closed his eyes and kissed him softly and nervously, relishing in the surprising warmth of Chekov’s face and neck. Sulu’s hands were shaking— something that had never happened at the conn, even when he was sleep-deprived and blocking disruptor blasts from a Klingon warship.
“Are you just doing this out of pity?” Chekov asked, his eyes still closed and his hands settling on Sulu’s forearms, neither pulling nor pushing. Sulu could taste the replicated coconut on his breath. “Because what I said that time in the sickbay—when I punctured a lung—I have not been pining for you, Hikaru.”
Sulu did not say, This might be the end; one of us might die a week into his next mission. He did not say, I think you’re brilliant and brave and I think you’re adorable for offering to show me off to your family. He didn’t even say, I don’t even know when it started, but I’ve spent five years wanting you in some way or another and just then what I wanted was to kiss you and I’m kind of surprised I did, honestly. They all flashed through his mind, these starting points for soul-bearing soliloquies, the sort he found in all his favourite nineteenth century novels. But he ignored them.
“It’s not pity,” he said simply, and smiled to prove his honesty.
It took a few seconds, but pretty soon Chekov was smiling back like they were sharing a private joke. “That is good,” he said, as the ship hurtled through space at a hundred times the speed of light, heading back to where they’d started.
“Then perhaps,” Chekov said, as if he was pondering the nature of the universe (and this was Chekov, so that wasn’t necessarily hyperbole), “I should tell my aunt not to bother setting up a second bed in the guest room. Perhaps one will do just fine.”
Sulu just rolled his eyes, unsure of whether Chekov was being serious or not—unsure of whether he even wanted Chekov to be serious or not— and kissed him again.